BMI and race and ethnicity as predictors of victimization and perpetration in emerging adulthood

Published date07 April 2022
Date07 April 2022
Subject MatterHealth & social care,Criminology & forensic psychology,Aggression,conflict & peace,Sociology,Gender studies,Gender violence,Political sociology,policy & social change,Social conflicts,War/peace
AuthorShannon Scott,Lisa Rosen,Briana Paulman
BMI and race and ethnicity as predictors
of victimization and perpetration
in emerging adulthood
Shannon Scott, Lisa Rosen and Briana Paulman
Purpose Race and ethnicity, BMI and other factors can affectratings of one’s experiences in school,
work and other settings.The purpose of this study is to examine the effect of BMI,race and ethnicity and
body satisfaction on the experiences of victimization in a work or academic setting. Additionally,
experiences of weight/appearance-based perpetration were explored within the context of prior
victimization,perpetration, BMI, raceand ethnicity and body satisfaction.
Design/methodology/approach A diverse sample of 1,161 female undergraduates completed a
series of questionnairesonline. A series of hierarchical regression analyses were conductedto examine
the association between body satisfaction, BMI and race and ethnicity and weight/appearance-based
teasingperpetration and victimization.
Findings Results indicated that lower body satisfaction was significantlyrelated to an increase in weight/
appearance-based victimization. Additional analyses exam ining the perpetration of weight/appearance-
based teasing were conducted. Participants who reporte d experiencing victimization were also more likely to
perpetrate weight/appearance-based teasing, alth ough BMI was not associated with perpetration.
Research limitations/implications Implications of these findings andfuture research directions are
discussed. In particular, academic settings provide a landscape for reducing and preventing
victimization becauseof the resources available for students in addition to policiesand procedures that
can be implemented.
Originality/value The findings of this study provideevidence that various identities and beliefs, such
as race and ethnicity,BMI and body satisfaction, play a role in victimizationand perpetration. This study
used a novel, emergingadulthood population.
Keywords BMI, Ethnicity, Race, Victimization, Emerging adulthood,Race and ethnicity, Perpetration
Paper type Research paper
Victimization and aggression in work environments are increasingly studied because of the
potential adverse outcomes, including interpersonal relationship problems, negative
drinking outcomes and overall psychological stress (Rospenda et al.,2000). However, work
environment can mean differentthings depending on the population. For example, the work
environment for emerging adults can either be an actual work setting or an academic
setting, whichever is more salient to them. The present study sought to understand the
experiences of victimization as a function of body mass index (BMI) and race and ethnicity.
Additionally, the present study explored the experiences of perpetration as a function of
prior victimization, BMI, race and ethnicity and body satisfaction. Specifically, the current
study focused on emerging adulthood, which is a distinct stage of development that
focuses on the 18- to 25-year-old age group in which profound changes occur in one’s life
(Arnett, 2000). In an academic setting, the classroom and work environment are the two
domains most salient to thispopulation; therefore, most social and interpersonal interactions
Shannon Scott, Lisa Rosen
and Briana Paulman are all
based at the Department of
Psychology and
Philosophy, Texas
Womans University,
Denton, Texas, USA.
Received 3 December 2021
Revised 23 February 2022
Accepted 9 March 2022
DOI 10.1108/JACPR-12-2021-0654 VOL. 15 NO. 2 2023, pp. 69-84, ©Emerald Publishing Limited, ISSN 1759-6599 jJOURNAL OF AGGRESSION, CONFLICT AND PEACE RESEARCH jPAGE 69
occur in these settings. Although bullyinghas been studied in youth, and victimization in the
work setting has generally been examined among middle-aged adults, there is a gap in the
literature related to victimization and bullying behaviors in an academic or work setting
among emerging adults and diverse populations of college students. Therefore, it is of
particular interest how thispopulation experiences victimization.
Definitions of what constitutes victimization vary significantly throughout the literature.
Workplace abuse has been defined in recent literature as physical or verbal mistreatment
that is either passive or active (Bowling et al.,2015). This can also include hostile
interpersonalinteractions (e.g. yelling or swearing) or experiencingdemeaning behavior that
creates a hostile environment (McGinley et al.,2015;Rospenda et al.,2000). A systematic
review of various studies involving bullying research found that the most common
characteristics used in bullying definitions included intent to harm, power imbalance and
repetition (Younan, 2018). The present study focused on the term victimization to addressall
aspects of victimization or aggression an individual may experience, including verbal and
physical components of harassment,abuse and bullying.
Perpetrator and victim characteristics
First, the relevant perpetrator and victim characteristics that have been previously
examined must be discussed. It is noted that there is a lack of research examining
perpetrator characteristics or predicting experiences of perpetration (Samnani and Singh,
2012), especially within the emergingadulthood population.
Body dissatisfaction
The impact of body dissatisfaction on victimization and perpetration of bullying behaviors
has focused on adolescents and bullying.Adolescents who have a negative body image, or
perceive themselves as being fat, are more likely to be a victim (Sentenac et al.,2012)ora
bully-victim (Holubcikova et al.,2015). One interpretation is that those who are dissatisfied
with their own weight and appearance may be more likely to perpetrate aggression as a
coping strategy. One explanation provided is that individuals with high body image
dissatisfaction may exert more energy on these thoughts; thus, they are more mentally
exhausted and less likely to control their behaviors (DeWall et al.,2011). There is also
evidence that body dissatisfaction mediates the relationship between children being
overweight and being bullied; children with body dissatisfaction may experience
psychologicalvulnerability (i.e. lower self-esteemand increased body dissatisfaction),which
influences their behavior and increases their risk of being targeted by peers (Fox and
Farrow, 2009).
Weight and body mass index
In addition to body dissatisfaction, research has explored BMI, bullying and victimization
from different perspectives, including socioeconomic status, race and ethnicity and
appearance stigmatization and rejection. The relationship between bullying victimization
and weight has been explored in adolescent populations, with overwhelming evidence that
overweight or obese youth are more likely to be victims of verbal bullying (Janssen et al.,
2004). Additionally, children who are overweight are more likely to perpetrate bullying
(Janssen et al., 2004). A study examining cyberbullying found that body satisfaction
significantly reduced the risk of cyberbullying for bullies, victims and bully-victims
(Malinowska-Cieslik et al., 2022). These findings suggest that those who are dissatisfied
with their own bodies may be more likely to retaliate in the form of bullying or abuse,
although further research is needed to establish any conclusions. A review of bullying
literature involving children and adolescents found an increased risk of becoming both a

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